There are plenty of young people out there who will end up in jobs that don’t demand college degrees: yet college is still right for them.The rest of the article is mostly about those students, and surely flattering to the reader--anybody who gets past paragraph one is thinking "Yes, that was me then".
Yet as someone who knew some of these students back then--none from impoverished families that I recall, but few from rich ones--and who knows something about modern-day tuitions, I wonder about the implication in
The implication here is that paying for college is like putting money into a set of stocks or a mutual fund. It’s an investment.Well, yes. That has been the implication of American colleges for a good hundred years, and I dare say before that. I understand that a professor might regret this mercenary view, and I sympathize. However viewed, though, paying for college emphatically is paying, and these days it is paying at rates few of us can sustain for investing. Some numbers may show why I feel unease here.
Mr. Edmundson has been teaching for 35 years, he writes, which gives us a starting point at the academic year 1978-79. As I calculate it,
- 1978-1979: U.Va. tuition $525, required fees $324, total $849; U.S. minimum hourly wage $2.65, ergo $106 per 40 hour week; a bit over eight weeks to make the equivalent of tuition and fees.
- 2011-2012: U.Va. tuition $9,240, required fees $2,344, total $11,584; U.S. minimum hourly wage $7.25, $290 per 40 hour week; a bit over 38 weeks to make the equivalent of tuition and fees.
With room and board, the university reckons about $24 thousand per year for the Virginia resident. Some of those students Mr. Edmundson wants in his class come from families for whom that is a serious amount of money. Arguing against the notion of investment would be a good deal easier at a lower cost.